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|Travel Update: Bahamasair Changes A Few Routes|
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|Posted by:||Jul 1st 2003, 04:39:52 pm|
|Fig Tree News Team||Bahamasair Cutting Unprofitable
By Hadassah Hall
The continued payment of salaries to seven employees of Bahamasair over the past nine months despite the discontinuation of flights to Andros, resulted in much hardship for the national flag carrier, according to Minister with responsibility for Bahamasair, Bradley Roberts.
This "financial obligation" continued to drain the company which has lost approximately $86 million over the past three years, he said.
"Bahamasair’s dilemma is the staff was continued to be paid...the Board of Bahamasair and with the government's approval has decided that we need to implement the part of 'Our Plan' regarding out-sourcing," Minister Roberts said.
According to Chairman of Bahamasair Basil Sands, since its inception 30 years ago, the national flag carrier has lost $330 million.
During town meetings in Central, North and South Andros on Thursday, Mr. Sands said Bahamasair lost $1,000 per flight servicing Andros, which amounted to $730,000 per year.
"Give or take, you're looking at three quarters of a million dollars, to a million dollars, depending on how many people travel at any given time...it's obvious that we have to cut what we call the hemorrhaging overall," Mr. Sands said.
Bahamasair has not flown into Andros since September, 2002. But by next week, it is expected that outsourcing of the route to charter companies will go to tender. It's a campaign promise that the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government is seeking to make a reality.
'Our Plan' - the PLP document of campaign promises - says that the government wants Bahamasair to be privatized and intends to put a stop to the substantial losses while expanding the airline's mission internationally and outsource unprofitable routes to charter companies.
The lack of profitability due to a low demand in flying the Andros route is the reason for the outsourcing, according to Bahamasair's Managing Director Paul Major.
Meantime, a key element of outsourcing for Bahamasair is securing jobs, officials said. Mr. Major assured Androsians that owners of companies most likely to bid have already confirmed to Bahamasair officials that there will be no redundancies.
"If there are no redundancies, no employment, we have to work out what that transition is from Bahamasair into that company," Mr. Major said.
"I'm sure the government will find a way to make that as painless as possible."
Nathaniel Pratt, a Bahamasair employee for 20 years, expressed concern about his gratuity. Minister Roberts informed Mr. Pratt that there are on-going discussions with the executives of the Airport Airline and Allied Workers Union, to ensure that there is no loss of benefits.
"It means less of a drain on Bahamasair," Minister Roberts said. "It's part of our mission to stop the hemorrhaging in Bahamasair. There are Family Island destinations where staff are being paid even though they only perform a couple hours per day. You cannot operate business if you're paying salaries and not getting value for the money that you're paying out.
"No matter how big or small a business you may be operating, there has to be a relationship between what you are paying and what you are getting in return. So we're starting this process and I have every belief that we will be successful in our commitment in reducing or eliminating the hemorrhage of the national flag carrier."
Additionally, Ministry of Tourism officials say the charter company that will replace Bahamasair must subscribe to the Sabre Reservation System, which is the most widely used reservation system internationally.
"We will be involved through the Sabre System because it is too expensive for the smaller operators to subscribe to such a system directly because their flights will be listed in our reservations system...we will only be involved to connect these people to the international world," he said.
Many residents, meanwhile, say officials must ensure that the charter company chosen for outsourcing has safety as its main priority.
"My number one concern is safety," Peter Douglas said. "Even though we all have our complaints about Bahamasair, we all know that Bahamasair delivered the customer safely.”
Another resident, Henry Hinsey, added, "I feel that it is of paramount importance that safety, security and efficiency be the main consideration toward the replacement of Bahamasair."
Mr. Major guaranteed residents that whatever charter company wins the bid to service Andros, it would have to meet insurance liability measures and maintenance tests in addition to safety compliance to be regulated by the Flight Standards Inspectorate.
Furthermore, Bahamasair intends to eventually outsource to charter companies for other unprofitable routes, including Treasure Cay, Abaco; Arthur's Town, Cat Island and North Eleuthera.
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